Do you see things and predict the future?

Do you see things and predict the future?

We tend to see reality as a fixed situation. We tend to see things instead of “unfolding processes in motion”.

All those networking and organizing processes between a connected group of people with organizational positions and roles, we call “organization”. We may see the physical building where these processes take place, but we cannot see “the” organization. But it is easier to think of the organization as a thing, an entity, so that has become normal.

So much fluidity! All those processes, the information and energy in the system aren’t easy to see. The material things in the system, the “matter” seems easier to work with.

That’s why we draw boxes around departments, around processes, and around problems – turning them into things that we can see, and define, and thus manage. This yields a reassuring feeling of control. It assumes well-defined things with clear boundaries that are connected in a cause-and-effect direction that is linear and simple.

Many organizations prefer to plan their change projects in advance, with outlined details of how many meetings are needed to design certain interventions that will change the culture by a future date. (That’s a nice paper tiger. It doesn’t bite and it will sleep in your drawer).

We tend to see things instead of “unfolding processes in motion” Click To Tweet

But the world is not the linear, cause-and-effect reality with clear-defined “things” that it looks like on paper.

The world is more like a time-space where information and energy and matter are connected, influencing each other all the time. It’s a huge system of things, unfolding processes, and a zillion relationships between those things and processes – so we can never predict with certainty what will happen next.

The Key Word is Fluidity

One thing leads to another, and on and on and on. It’s a web of data, stuff, movement, and possibilities.

The first meeting of your project may shift the scope and change the playing field – so all designed future steps become obsolete and need to be modified.

The complexity of many systems calls for development rather than design. It calls for suspending judgment, staying open, and noticing what is emerging. Next, it’s important to work with whatever happens here and now, in our current reality, instead of what was planned for on paper. (Let those paper tigers sleep in their drawers and deal with what’s happening in front of you).

When you ponder this, you may see reality in a different way. When you blink and look through your eyelashes (so to speak), can you see the sea of possibilities? Can you see how things are coming into existence every moment? How they are evolving, emerging, can you see the fluidity? Can you see how many processes are not “things” at all? Can you deal with the complexity of connections – and be open to different outcomes that you didn’t plan for? Can you be flexible and respond to what is in front of you? And engage with the energy, information, and matter that are present?

This may sound overly philosophical but it is practical. This way of thinking may yield more results than sticking to your thoroughly crafted paper plan.

Imagine the lost potential of believing in the linear, fixed-things, cause-and-effect nature of reality. This is a simplified view that precludes seeing what happens in a process because it is not officially on the agenda, or because it’s not recognized as a problem that was to be expected.

Instead, we ignore or don’t notice it and stick to the agenda while our energy stagnates or depletes. We go through the motions. We stick to the plan. We force reality into our categories, boxes, and steps. So much momentum, energy, enthusiasm, and potential goes to waste…

The planning and control mindset is a big hindrance to excellent performance – but we will get to that later.

There are Simple and Complex Systems

Of course, just for the record, there are systems and processes that are linear and simple. You can plan and predict their outcomes.

Fortunately, we can rely on many linear processes in physics. Airplanes will lift off under the right circumstances. Bridges will carry the weight of cars when constructed correctly. Thanks to chemistry: The right pills will take away your fever and your headache. In government: Your tax payment is collected in a predictable way every year. In your organization: When you outsource a product line, you’ll need less staff. And so on.

The complexity of many systems calls for development rather than design Click To Tweet

But larger systems with more actors and variables tend to be more complex. Think of the environment, or the global economy, or an illness that entails more than a headache.

As a rule of thumb, systems that entail people can be considered complex and non-linear.

Why? Because you can never fully predict people’s behavior. It would be arrogant to think so. If you think you can, think again. You never know everything that others think and feel, thus you cannot predict their behaviors.

Even though you know them well, people can change, and start to see things differently, or respond to an impulse or an unfamiliar context which disrupts their normal behavior patterns. You can even surprise yourself, for that matter. (I know I did…)

This observation is important. We are inclined to behave like fortune tellers with crystal balls. Based on earlier experiences we simply extrapolate to the future in a linear way.

“My boss doesn’t like people to ask through on his ideas so he will be angry if I do.”

“I’ve never won an assignment with being honest so I’d better pimp my expertise and bluff that I can make their deadline to win this one, too.”

“I can’t work with clients from the banking sector. They are not my style.”

Are you sure?

This is book post #10 – level: ME

Here’s the earlier post
Here is the next post!

If you’re confused – please start with post #1 or check the Positive Power overview and read the Positive Agent Manifesto.

Leaders, employees, consultants, citizens – everyone can make a positive difference from any position, without needing permission or resources from others. This blog will help you see positive possibilities and (re)claim your positive agency. Unstuck yourself and engage others via your interaction and actions. Transform into a positive organization where people and performance thrive.

I’m blogging my next book: “Positive Power at Work – How to make a positive difference from any position.” Your feedback is appreciated!

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Leave a Reply

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Clive Bevan

    Describe where you think you are going !!

    Engage with an intelligent group of stake holders and build ownership of the developed Vision.

    Anchor all activities to your Future goal, and know from the outset that your Vision will change.

    Be true to yourself.. trust in your Partners… know that better Performance will emerge as you implement your Plan.

  2. Constance

    These notes you sent to me are exactly my true beliefs..I am the first to believe people can change if they want to. However, some have made this a way of life and you do understand a drowning person will drown you if your not an experienced swimmer yourself. Know yourself, know your capabilities so I am not taken advantage of. It takes two to help make people change. The one helping and guiding them out of their storm and the ones who go right back to the next storm immediately thereafter. If people cannot change until they want to change strong enough or believe that can change. We can not do everything for them.

  3. Marcella; Right on. Directionally correct thinking. I wrote my initial reactions, and was anxious to reTweet “the complexity of many systems calls for development rather than design” and then lost my words. Now, I don’t trust a second attempt as being necessarily sufficient to bolster what you are saying. And, wish to hear others reactions. Thank you for posting “this” in our Fresh Eyes Visioning LinkedIn group. Best wishes,
    Bill LeGray

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